Two in three women at prison vic­tims of do­mes­tic abuse

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TWO-THIRDS of women en­ter­ing Styal prison said they had ex­pe­ri­enced do­mes­tic vi­o­lence and al­most a fifth ad­mit­ted to hav­ing been in­volved in sex work, a new re­port re­veals.

The shock­ing fig­ures were sup­plied by the jail to HM In­spec­torate of Pris­ons for in­clu­sion in its lat­est re­port, pub­lished to­day.

All women are sur­veyed on ar­rival and dur­ing the in­spec­tion in April and May, the prison’s pop­u­la­tion was 441.

The Cheshire jail – the only women’s prison in the re­gion – was praised for its con­di­tions in the re­port, which says it pro­vides a ‘safe and de­cent’ en­vi­ron­ment which ‘em­pha­sised as­pi­ra­tion and hope’.

Peter Clarke, HM Chief In­spec­tor of Pris­ons, said ‘nearly all’ women ar­rive with sig­nif­i­cant needs, in­clud­ing his­to­ries of sui­cide at­tempts and self­harm, men­tal health is­sues and sub­stance abuse and ex­pe­ri­ence of ‘trauma and abuse’.

But he praised staff for their pro­fes­sion­al­ism, com­pe­tence and com­mit­ment, say­ing lev­els mir­rored the find­ings of the last in­spec­tion in 2014.

The re­port high­lighted the in­tro­duc­tion of new pro­grammes for do­mes­tic vi­o­lence vic­tims, with fur­ther sup­port of­fered by psy­chol­o­gists.

Use of a na­tion­ally­ac­cred­ited scheme to help women who were in­volved in sex work was also praised.

The re­port re­vealed ‘very high’ lev­els of self­harm, with 735 in­ci­dents re­ported in the six months to March, al­though they were ‘of­ten ac­counted for by a small num­ber of women’.

There has been one ‘self-in­flicted death’ at Styal since 2014.

Over­all the re­port said an ‘ex­ten­sive range of in­ter­ven­tions’ was avail­able to sup­port women vul­ner­a­ble to self-harm, in­clud­ing pro­grammes of daily ac­tiv­i­ties, sup­port groups and a spe­cial­ist self-harm pro­gramme.

In­spec­tors found a ‘strong fo­cus on de­cency’ with the amount of time women spend out of cells said to be ‘bet­ter than in­spec­tors of­ten see’.

For­mal and recre­ational ac­tiv­i­ties, learn­ing and skills op­por­tu­ni­ties and work pro­vi­sion had all been en­hanced.

“The fo­cus on rais­ing as­pi­ra­tions was ex­cel­lent, as was the use of peer men­tors,” Mr Clarke said.

But the re­port found a ‘sig­nif­i­cant short­age of sta­ble ac­com­mo­da­tion in the com­mu­nity for re­leased women’.

Mr Clarke said: “They ●● re­ceived good care while at Styal, and were of­ten sta­bilised, sup­ported and helped to ad­dress poor be­hav­iour and other prob­lems in their lives, only for this to fall apart once they were re­leased, of­ten lead­ing to an­other cus­to­dial sen­tence.” The Min­istry of Jus­tice was also urged to re­con­sider es­tate rules cur­rently pre­vent­ing a project to re­fur­bish dis­used houses in the grounds to pro­vide sup­ported ac­com­mo­da­tion.

Mr Clarke said: “Over­all the prison is very well led, and achieves a good bal­ance be­tween pro­vid­ing care and sup­port and chal­leng­ing prob­lem­atic be­hav­iour.”

Michael Spurr, chief ex­ec­u­tive of HM Prison and Pro­ba­tion Ser­vice, said: “This is a very good in­spec­tion out­come which re­flects the ex­cel­lent work be­ing un­der­taken at Styal – par­tic­u­larly in sup­port­ing vul­ner­a­ble women, in­clud­ing those who self­harm.

“De­vel­op­ing a pos­i­tive re­ha­bil­i­ta­tive cul­ture is key to help­ing women to turn their lives around and the achieve­ments at Styal are a credit to all in­volved.”

Styal prison was built in 1898 and op­er­ated as a chil­dren’s home un­til 1956. In 1963, it opened as a semi-se­cure prison for women and se­cure ac­com­mo­da­tion was built in 1999.

Styal Prison, Styal, Wilm­slow.

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